Friday, February 28, 2014

[410] Student success expert urges putting classroom first at MTSU summit

MURFREESBORO — The keynote speaker at MTSU’s summit on university student retention encouraged attendees to make the classroom their top priority.

“The point of retention is learning,” Dr. Vincent Tinto, distinguished professor emeritus of sociology at Syracuse University, told some 400 higher education professionals at the Best Practices for Student Success, Inclusion and Retention Summit in the MTSU Student Union Building Feb. 28.

“It’s not about retention, per se,” said Tinto. “It’s about retention as a vehicle for learning. If we don’t succeed there, what have we done?”

Tinto promoted a four-point strategy of providing students with clear expectations, academic and social support, assessment and feedback and engaging students to interact with other students.

However, Tinto emphasized that higher retention numbers need not be achieved through a reduction in academic rigor or quality.

“We have to construct classrooms so students have high expectations,” Tinto said. “No one rises to low expectations.”

In setting the stage for Tinto’s address, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan cited the Tennessee Complete College Act and Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” program in explaining that the higher education climate must change.

Saying that colleges’ approach to the issue must be “hands-on, high-touch and high-tech,” Morgan said universities must do a better job of keeping students of color, low-income students and first-generation college students from dropping out.

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU’s president, referenced Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” as what colleges and universities must avoid.

“We in higher education can’t be regarded as practicing that definition,” said McPhee. “The external factors have said, ‘Enough! This is what we expect from you!”

Nearly 40 presentations, including 25 workshops, were scheduled. Topics include technology, adult learners, peer mentoring, internships, distance learning and freshman involvement. A panel of students was slated to offer ideas during the lunch hour.

The Best Practices summit is sponsored by the Tennessee Board of Regents, MTSU, the June Anderson Center, the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, the Intercultural and Diversity Affairs Center, the Career Development Center, the MTSU University College and the University of Memphis Office of Adult and Commuter Student Services.

[409] Teams seek state berths during March 1 Regional Science Olympiad at MTSU

MURFREESBORO — In Ash Sealy, chemistry professor Pat Patterson has found the ultimate volunteer for the Saturday, March 1, Regional Science Olympiad being held for the 19th year at MTSU.

Sealy, an MTSU sophomore biology major, twice participated in the regional while a Blackman High School student. She jumped at the opportunity to assist Patterson, the regional director, during her freshman year.

The Regional Science Olympiad will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. all across the MTSU campus. Nearly 600 combined middle school and high school students and about 100 volunteers will be involved. The volunteers will include 50 to 60 MTSU students such as Sealy and many MTSU faculty and staff.

I enjoy helping because I remember how important it was to me in high school and how cool it was to get to talk to college kids and professionals throughout the day,” said Sealy, who competed in four events both years at Blackman and served as the team leader for three Blaze teams (Blackman had two entries one year.). “It was always fun to prepare, compete, and try to get to state.”

Sealy will assist judge and MTSU senior Nick Montgomery with the “Sounds of Music” category for middle school (Division B) students.

“I’m a music nerd,” Sealy said. “I’ve played instruments for 10-plus years and I love music. I thought I was going to major in music for a while, but science won in the end. I competed in it both years in high school, and I’m really happy I get the opportunity to help with my favorite Science Olympiad event this year.”

Among the other 22 middle school categories will be “Boomilever,” “Crime Busters,” “Helicopters,” “Robo-Cross” and “Rotor Egg Drop.” Among the 23 high school events will be “Bungee Drop,” “Elastic Launched Glider,” “Mission Possible” and “Scrambler.”

With two teams each, Day Springs Academy of Robertson County, Smyrna and St. Henry School of Nashville will have six of 17 middle school entries, which also include Blackman, Central Magnet, Oakland, St. Rose of Lima and Rockvale from Rutherford County.
Brentwood, Central Magnet and Nashville’s Hume-Fogg Magnet each will enter two teams in the high school division, which will have 17 teams altogether and also include Blackman, Siegel and Smyrna from Rutherford County.

Six middle school teams and five high school teams will advance to the 30th annual state Science Olympiad in Knoxville, Tenn., in April.

Mike Lyttle, a special agent and forensic scientist supervisor at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Nashville, will participate in the awards ceremony, which will begin at 3:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

Patterson already is thinking about 2015’s Regional Science Olympiad. Much of he 20th annual event will be held in the university’s new Science Building.

[408] ‘MTSU On the Record’ explores disability in the media

MURFREESBORO — The media’s depictions of the disabled will be the topic of the next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Katie Foss, an assistant professor of journalism at MTSU, will air from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, March 3, and from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, March 9, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and

Foss has introduced a new seminar class called “Media and Disability” for the spring 2014 semester. Aspects of the course include news coverage of disability, the impact of war veterans on disability policies, the absence of disabilities in advertising and the treatment of the disabled in reality television shows.

“We’re starting to move from more of a medical perspective, or a pathological view of disability … toward more of a cultural model of disability in which we think, ‘What are the cultural constructs that create the disability?,’” Foss said.

To listen to previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to the “Audio Clips” archives at

For more information, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

[407] Soledad O’Brien headlines MTSU Women’s History Month events

Events celebrate character, courage, commitment

MURFREESBORO — Journalist Soledad O’Brien headlines two months of events in observance of National Women’s History Month at MTSU.

The theme of this year’s festivities is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”

O’Brien will be the keynote speaker at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, in the Student Union ballroom. Her topic will be “Diversity: On TV, Behind the Scenes and In Our Lives.”

The reporter joined CNN in 2003, anchoring “American Morning” and “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.” Her coverage of the 2010 Haitian earthquake on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” earned her an Emmy Award in 2011. Her “Black in America” series was one of CNN’s most successful international franchises.

O’Brien moved to Al Jazeera America in 2013. She will produce short-form segments to the network as a special correspondent to its prime time magazine program “America Tonight.” In addition, O’Brien contributes reports to “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on HBO.

• NASA engineer Aisha Bowe will deliver the Women in Science Invited Lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, March 3, in Room S305 of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building.

Bowe is an aerospace engineer at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Her work focuses on developing methods to maintain safe separation of air traffic and optimize fuel consumption within an automatic system.

• “Serving the Local Community: Women in Murfreesboro City and Rutherford County Governments” is slated for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in MTSU’s Tom Jackson Building.

This discussion will include panelists Laura Bohling, Rutherford County circuit court clerk; Donna Scott Davenport, Rutherford County juvenile court judge; Joyce Ealy, commissioner, District 19, Rutherford County Commission; Madelyn Scales Harris, councilwoman, Murfreesboro City Council; and Lisa Nolan, Rutherford County finance director. The moderator will be MTSU professor emerita Dr. Ayne Cantrell.

• Anti-domestic violence activist Mark Wynn will talk about stalking in domestic violence incidents and on college campuses from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in Room S102 of the Business and Aerospace Building.

• Members of the LGBT community will celebrate diversity at “SpringOut! Pride Week” Monday, April 7, through Saturday, April 12. The highlight will be the second SpringOut! DragOut!, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 12 in the Tennessee Room of MTSU’s James Union Building. Tickets are available by contacting

• The culmination of the National Women’s History Month celebration will be the inaugural “Women of Character, Courage and Commitment Gala” from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.

This dinner will recognize women and men in the MTSU community and in Rutherford County who have been advocates for women’s rights and who have shown great character, courage and commitment to the cause.

Ticket information is available by calling Valerie Avent, assistant director of the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, at 615-898-5725 or

Each year, the MTSU Women’s History Month Committee produces buttons depicting an accomplished woman of historic importance. The buttons for this year’s National Women’s History Month celebration feature pioneering civil rights and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Born into slavery in 1797, Truth won three lawsuits, very unusual for a black woman of her time. One of those victories enabled her to retrieve her son, Peter, from a slaveholder who had purchased him illegally.

She delivered her most famous address, “Ain’t I a Woman?,” at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851. In the speech, Truth asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were equally capable.

For more information about these and other events, contact Barbara Scales, director of the June Anderson Center, at 615-898-2193 or

Thursday, February 27, 2014

[406] MTSU recognized by House Education Committee

State Rep. Dawn White singled out university’s Quest for Student Success efforts

NASHVILLE — MTSU’s Quest for Student Success efforts were recognized Tuesday by state Rep. Dawn White during a hearing of the state House Education Committee at the Capitol.

White, who received three degrees from MTSU, introduced President Sidney A. McPhee and John Hood, director of government and community affairs, as the committee hailed the contributions by several Tennessee Board of Regents institutions.

“MTSU recently unveiled a sweeping set of reforms — the Quest for Student Success — that are designed to make sure that every student who comes to MTSU with the drive to achieve will be met with the best instruction with excellent professors who care for their success,” White, R-Murfreesboro, told the committee.

“The plan calls for the university to identify and rework general core courses and create a culture of high expectations coupled with personal attention when students struggle inside or outside the classroom.”

White, who represents House District 37, told the committee about several other MTSU student success initiatives, including:
§  Setting up a consolidated tutoring center to provide learning support to students in all majors;
§  Reestablishing the practice of posting midterm grades and tweaking its academic alert system to trigger intervention if a student appears to be in danger of failing.

“It is hoped that these new efforts will aid in Gov. Bill Haslam’s goal for 55 percent of Tennesseans to earn a degree or certificate,” White said.

MTSU’s Quest for Student Success plan can be found at

White reminded legislators that MTSU was the No. 1 choice for undergraduates in Tennessee and the No. 1 producer of degrees in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.

McPhee, who spent Tuesday visiting House Speaker Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other legislators at the Capitol, thanked White for her support of her alma mater.

“We are blessed to have Rep. White as a member of our area’s legislative delegation,” he said. “And we are lucky to be represented by a terrific and committed group of lawmakers.”